Bingone
Bingone

Watertown, NY

#1 Nov 24, 2013
Bingone is dedicated to comments on articles and opinion pieces that are written. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the first five letters of Bingone are Bingo!
Bingone

Watertown, NY

#2 Nov 24, 2013
Nolan Finley wrote a column today with the title, "Obamacare Will Kill Middle Class." The basic premise of his article is that Obamacare will cost so much money to individuals and families, both in the individual insurance market and with employer subsidized health insurance, that it will knock so many out of the middle class so as to destroy it. Not a word about the problem of so many not having health care coverage prior to Obamacare. And nothing to back up what he is proposing. I am quite skeptical of his argument, but it is the fact that he devoted a column to stating the obvious (from a right wing perspective) that saddens me. Why bother? But that is the nature of politics. One of the primary purposes of politics is not to win an intellectual argument, but to try to persuade large numbers to support your views. That requires repetition, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Nolan Finley filled up a column with ideas that provided nothing original and simply repeated the line of argument we have heard again and again ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed.
Bingone

Watertown, NY

#3 Nov 25, 2013
It being Monday morning, it is time for the early morning start the week columns. And sure enough, we get a column called "Munich II" by James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation. What I love about this column is the absolute assurance that it lays out its certainties that he knows the only way and that since the negotiators of the Iran deal did something other than what, to him, is obvious, they, including Secretary Kerry, are clearly fools or worse. This is, of course, fairly normal political writing. However, it doesn't address what I consider to be the key point. Why the difference? If his views are so obviously correct, why are those others not following his views to the letter? These kind of global why questions are, interestingly enough, something that people like the author rarely ask, and I suspect don't really care about.
Bingone

Watertown, NY

#4 Nov 25, 2013
Paul Krugman's subject today is the Obamacare success in California. This has to with simply having a workable website, which they do because they took the trouble to create their own state website and therefore aren't part of HealthCare.gov and therefore not subject to the problems it is having. This column doesn't get at the big question of the moment, which basically is can Obamacare survive in the current political climate? Since he has addressed this before, I imagine he wanted to do something else. The key question in that regard is whether the Democrats in congress, particularly in the Senate, will pass some sort of modification or repeal that will be signed by President Obama. While I certainly wouldn't expect so, that prospect falls into the "Hey, you never know" category. We shall see!
Bingone

Watertown, NY

#6 Dec 10, 2013
There was an opinion piece the other day called, "When is inequality harmful? When it's caused by cronyism." This was written by Timothy P. Carney of the Washington Examiner. His point, as made by many on the right, is essentially that there is nothing inherently wrong with inequality. He, as so many others, then engages in all sorts of intellectual contortions in order to show that there is nothing wrong with inequality, either morally or economically. I don't believe it. Fortunately, it doesn't really matter whether I believe it or not. There are a couple of things that are going on that make the importance of whether I or anyone else believes it less important. First of all, inequality is getting greater and greater. This means that, regardless of any arguments someone like Mr. Carney makes, it will become more and more obvious that the inequality exists. This will especially affect the zero sum question. It is a truism for the right that economics must not be thought of as a zero sum game. So people can get extremely wealthy even while everybody else is doing better, according to this theory. Either it happens or it doesn't, and right now it isn't happening. Finally, the one data point we seem to have, even though the right won't agree, is the correlation between the highest levels of income inequality at the onset of the Great Depression and the fact that the depression came. Hopefully there will be no repeat of that.
Bingone

Watertown, NY

#7 Dec 15, 2013
Joan Walsh wrote today in Salon an article titled, "Poverty nation: How America created a low-wage work swamp." This seems to be the direction that things are going. The question I wonder about is whether there is anything that can be done about it. The position of the right, as stated in the article, is that what people need is a job, any job. According to them, you don't raise the minimum wage because it would "kill" jobs. Their other answer to low wages is to look to North Dakota, where a fluky set of circumstances has given the state one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and has allowed workers at what would ordinarily be minimum wage jobs to make more money there. Of course, the idea that these conditions can be replicated elsewhere are unlikely. And so, the usual question is out there. Can this keep going on without the pitchforks coming out? Or does this stop on its own for reasons that we can't conceive of right now. As we approach 2014, the consensus seems to be that 2014 will, like 2010, be an election based on the right benefiting from negative perceptions of Obamacare. No one really knows what to think about 2016. But in the meantime, time goes on and conditions change. What will the economy be like in a few years or even next year? The last quarter saw a rise in GDP that was unexpected. The Dow is at all time highs. Could things start to improve on their own?
Bingone

Rome, NY

#8 Apr 6, 2014
Rather than a particular article, there is a topic that has been the subject of many articles that gets me wondering. The subject is Ukraine. Russia has taken over Crimea and this has led to concern about how to stop Russia from just taking over areas like that. Considering that they have lots of nuclear weapons, it seems like there is a limited amount that can be done. But what has gotten me is how this story has simply dropped out of the news of late. You would think that a story that has some outside threat of leading to nuclear annihilation would get a little more play, but apparently not. A lot of this comes to a reading of Vladimir Putin. He is clearly a Russian nationalist. The key is that he feels responsible for ethnic Russians who are outside of the borders of Russia. This would seem to hold the potential for more pushing into, certainly, Ukraine. But we are now a week into April and, beyond that, nothing has happened yet. We will see what happens next.
Bingone

Rome, NY

#9 Apr 20, 2014
I just read an article by Jedidiah Purdy, a Professor of Law at the Duke University Law School. The title is, "We Need More Class Traitors, Solving America's Meritocracy Problem." He mentions that he was kind of stopped in his tracks by "Capital In The 21st Century," the study of the roots of the inequality increase that we are currently living through by Thomas Piketty. That is a recent book which was the subject of a book review by Paul Krugman. The key thing it suggested was that a lot of the increase in income inequality towards the 0.1% was caused by executive compensation that has been rising way out of control. What Jedidiah Purdy is saying is that the meritocracy has kind of gone too far. He described himself as a product of first-generation meritocracy, that of getting high grades, high SAT scores, etc. But he says we have now moved into second-generation meritocracy, where merit is measured by how much money you make. As he points out, this has led to praise for the winners, and though often not explicitly expressed, the idea that those who are not well off deserve their suffering. All of this relates to themes that I have noted a lot of late. As I have also mentioned, this reminds me of the Mirror Universe episode of the original Star Trek. At the end, Kirk asks the Mirror Spock what the likely outcome is of the Empire's activities, and he says the overthrow of the empire. Analogously, the question comes up, how far can inequality go without making it's own maintenance difficult. But I know that those who are on the other side are not about to change their minds. And so it goes.
Bingone

Rome, NY

#11 Apr 26, 2014
I have just read an article titled, "Paving The Way For Full Repeal" by Bill Kristol. It is actually by a number of people. It is a description of a conservative plan to replace Obamacare. It has a number of parts, but the two keys seem to be a tax credit that can be applied to buying insurance on the individual market and the ability to have plans that lean towards catastrophic care only. One of the key things they want to do is have health insurance be insurance and not simply a prepaid health plan. There were a lot of things in it that were simply declarations of what the right believes is true, that Obamacare is obviously the worst piece of legislation this century, etc. At first I wondered about this, because it seemed like he was going against his initial point, which was that you can't simply advocate repealing Obamacare at this point, you have to propose an alternative. But then I realized that this article was written to try to convince the right, not to criticize the left per se. So criticism of Obamacare was required to try to build up his bone fides with his target audience. So from that point of view, of trying to convince the right, I suspect he still has some work to do. The most interesting thing that he had was a long portion trying to explain why the tax method would be a credit rather than a deduction. To me, this was obvious and did not require the length and effort that he put into it. But with the target audience the right, you can see how it would be necessary to work hard to convince the base that it should be a credit, since they would simply see this as a big giveaway. Anyway, it was an interesting idea. I suspect that, under the proper circumstances, if a Republican President takes office in 2017, this might be a viable idea. And that, more important than if it could actually be implemented, support of such an idea could be important toward even making it possible for their to be a Republican President taking office in 2017. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in particular, has said recently that though he disagrees with Obamacare, that it is the law and he can't see sabotaging it. There is talk of him running for President in 2016, so if he does, he could be the one to make an idea of this sort a viable Republican proposal to run on in the Presidential campaign.
Bingone

Rome, NY

#12 Apr 27, 2014
I have just read an article called Piketty, Oligarchy, and Conservative Evasion by Jonathan Chait. The subject of the article is the reaction to the apparently monumental book by Thomas Piketty, "Capital in the 21st Century." It is apparently a detailed analysis of the historical roots of wealth and income inequality within Capitalism. It looks at the Gilded Age and the current rise of greater and greater income inequality over the past few decades and states that this seems to be the natural direction. It also apparently states that the great leveling and rise of the middle class at the expense of the rich in the 20 years after World War 2 was apparently an aberration. It considers this situation undesirable and suggests much higher marginal income tax rates at the high end to make pretty much useless the super high salaries of people such as Hedge Fund managers and an international tax on wealth of 2% annually to try to control the situation. The big thing is that this book, which is based in part on work done by Emmanuel Saez, has become a big best seller and is getting a lot of attention. Whether this could inspire actually policies and legislation directed in the ways that Piketty suggests would seem unlikely, but it is causing a lot of discussion and is causing a feeling of a need on the right to respond to it and not just ignore it. Hence this article by Jonathan Chait. It simply points out that in objecting to what Piketty says, the tendency of the right is to ask and answer questions of their own choosing that don't really deal with the issues that Piketty brings up. Whether this strategy will be ultimately successful is to be seen. Certainly, it must be in the long run, because the right will not allow anything like the suggested policies to come anywhere near passage. But if some of the tendencies taking place, particularly the decrease in median income and the shrinking of the middle class continue to go in the direction they have of late, it will be interesting to see if this book starts to cause a more serious consideration of the whole subject.
Bingone

Rome, NY

#13 May 17, 2014
I am not usually almost brought to tears by the political opinion pieces that I comment on here, but this is the exception. I just read an article called, "Take The Target Off Shinseki's Back" by former Senator Max Cleland. He, as Shinseki, are disabled veterans and Cleland was also a former head of the Veteran's Administration. He said, I thought very eloquently, what I have thought almost from the beginning of this latest controversy, which requires a little background. At the Afghanistan and Iraq wars dragged on, the number of cases that the Veteran's Administration had to face started to skyrocket. During the time that service members remain in their service, they are the responsibility of that service. So injured soldiers are treated at, say, Walter Reed, which, by the way, has been far from immune from controversy. But when they leave the service, they fall under the Veteran's Administration. At the beginning of the Obama Administration, there was a huge backlog causing long waits for many services. Some of this was historical and some of this was because of the increased need for services caused by the wars. Former General Eric Shinseki, who took over as Veteran's Affairs Secretary under the administration of President Obama, saw the problem but was present and realized it could not be closed quickly. So he set a schedule for improvement that he has been striving to meet ever since. Now comes a controversy that in the Phoenix VA, they gamed the records to make themselves look better. He has sent in the investigators, but certain individuals with long knives have gone after Shinseki. One of his great "sins" had been to testify that it would not be a quick action to go into Iraq as Army Chief of Staff, which got him fired by Donald Rumsfeld. I think he is a man of great integrity, and that calls for his resignation at Veteran's Affairs Secretary are ridiculous. But it seemed like the same old same old and the story was just winding its way through. But then came this article in defense of Shinseki by Max Cleland. It said everything that needed to be said and did it in such a heartfelt way that, as I said, it nearly brought me to tears. I am sure that all this will go away in a relatively short period of time and the work will go on to try to bring the problems, especially the delays, in the Veteran's Administration system under control, but in the meantime this article stands, to me, like a great beacon of light in what so often seems to be almost unremitting political darkness.
Bingone

Rome, NY

#14 Dec 12, 2014
I just read an article called, "Orion, Risk Taking, and Learning How Far We Can Go," by Elliot Holokauahi Pulham, who is CEO of the Space Foundation. The basic thrust of the article (pardon the pun) is that risk is inherent whenever you try to make large strides. The article is referring to the recent first launch of the Orion space capsule. It went up to 3,600 miles and successfully returned to earth. It was not a big news story. This was kind of funny, because it was the first launch of a human capable space vehicle in the United States since the end of the Space Shuttle and the first launch of a human capable space vehicle to that altitude since Apollo 17. It is kind of sad that this was considered not that important. It makes you wonder where we are going. It is funny that, sometimes, big events are not noticed until years later, when their significance becomes clear. I was reading recently about Maxwell's equations, and it was pointed out that at the time that they were first really publicized in the scientific community, the math behind them was even more complicated, and that there were about 20 equations, not the 4 that we know about today. I hope that some sort of manned launch of Orion can take place in the not too distant future.
Bingone

Rome, NY

#15 Dec 27, 2014
I just read an article called, "The Democratic Party Debates Its Soul" by David Rogers, but really part of the Politico Magazine. Though I read it today, it really came out on December 14, 2014. The essence of the article is not so much that the Democratic Party is having a moment when it could split in two, as much as there is annoyance at some of the provisions that were put into the "Cromnibus" bill that caused the split that took place. It is analogous to the split on the Republican side. They are all basically agreed on the goals that they want, but differ on what kind of semi-poison pills they can accept. In the end, in the House, the bill passed, but it was truly a bipartisan bill in that it had large number of defections on both the Republican and Democratic sides. This ended up being followed by a similar vote in the Senate, and the bill passed. President Obama had said that he would sign it, and so the budget wars are off the table until, at the earliest, next October. But the real thing that was interesting was simply the description of some of the issues that were slipped in, especially the Wall St. favorable provisions. In the end, I suspect that the debate within the Democratic Party will be short lived. If the 2016 election goes poorly, there will probably be a huge debate, but that is two years off.
Bingone

Rome, NY

#16 Apr 5, 2015
There have been many articles about where society is going. I wonder. It is not necessary for any individual to be happy for society to keep rolling along. I almost think sometimes that society is dedicated to making people suffer. After all, there is unquestionably differences between people that affects their level of happiness. Some people are physically attractive. Some are totally uninhibited. The big question is how do people without these things get some level of happiness? Often I really wonder. I used to think that self improvement projects could help. But only some. After all, no matter how much you try to be a more attractive person, it will still be hard to compete with those who have the natural ability, and the lifetime of practice that the natural ability gives them. But we all just keep going on.

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